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SummaryA great RPG, and the first of several Infinity Engine games.
The GoodI installed the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion before starting a new game of Baldur’s Gate, the expansion ups the limit on experience points from 89,000 to 161,000 and adds new area’s, Ulgoth’s Beard, Durlag’s Tower and an Island, which you can travel to as normal, so its really an expansion of the game world rather than a separate addition. Installing Tales of the Sword Coast also patches Baldur’s Gate, so there’s no need to install the official patch, the Tales of the Sword Coast patch was included on the expansion CD.
The 160 page Baldur’s Gate manual is split into two parts, the first entitled ‘The Game Guide’ explains pretty much how to play the game and the game interface, the second part is entitled ‘Volo’s Guide to Baldur’s Gate’ and is written as a genuine travel book and guide to the various towns and locations of the Sword Coast, and includes reviews of numerous Inns and info on the various power groups and factions, some of the more common monsters and the major characters you might bump into. The second part of the second part details the AD&D 2nd Edition rules and the simulated dice rolls that go on behind the scenes.
There’s 5 CD’s for the main game with an optional full installation of about 2GB as well as the expansion disc.
Character creation was pretty interesting, never played any P&P D&D before but this wasn’t a problem, you only create one character and can recruit up to five extra characters along the way. The game begins in your home of Candlekeep, a walled community right on the edge of cliff tops overlooking the sea, a scholarly place with an extensive library of valuable books and stuffy gents. There’s an Inn, the bartender dabbles in a bit of buying and selling, and a few small quests you can run about completing in the grounds.
Your Gaurdian, Gorion, however has been acting strangely of late and has told you to prepare for travel, you are to leave Candlekeep with him as soon as you are ready. The very evening you leave you are ambushed just outside Candlekeep, Gorion is killed after instructing you to run for your life. The next morning you bump into Imoen, who you grew up with in Candlekeep, and she joins you on your travels regardless of what you’ve got to say on the matter, she’s a decent thief and stayed in my party for the duration (and even joined the Thieves Guild in Baldur’s Gate), from now on you’ve got the entire game world to explore.
The game looks very good, it’s a fixed 2D isometric affair, and it’s just how it should be! The backgrounds are detailed and have a great sense of scale when you come across the larger structures and geographic features. The attention to detail really is very good, different environments will prompt a comment from member’s of your party, gulls, eagles and owls will occasionally glide overhead while you’ll be able to hear the running water of rivers or crashing of waves before you arrive at the source.
There’s a pretty active drinking culture in this corner of the Realms and plenty of Inns to accommodate tired and thirsty adventurers, Inns are a good place to meet all sorts and races and pick up quests, Jaheira, the Druid in my party gains the ability to shape change into wolfs and bears and it was perfectly possible to wander about the Inns as a black bear, which was quite amusing. In my party I had two Fighters (essential for fighting up front and disrupting spell casters), a multi-class Fighter/Druid (essential for healing party members), a Thief (essential for disarming traps), a Ranger (not really essential but decent with ranged and melee weapons) and a Mage (essential for spell casting, obviously). I’m not saying this is the perfect configuration, I could have done with a bit more offensive magic, but it worked for me, and I became emotionally attached to my party members! These were the first characters I came across and I was unwilling to see them go to make room for the numerous other characters you bump into.
There’s plenty of encounters along the way, they’re not random - if you don’t explore the area very much you could miss out on a few, you’ve always got to decide whether or not to trust someone - I found myself reloading on occasion to find how the scene would play out in a different way.
Durlag’s Tower, an area added in the expansion, I thought was very good, a multi-level trap infested folly, overseen by the ghost of it’s Dwarven architect, Durlag Trollkiller, and his wife, Islanne.
The BadThe only real complaint is the path finding, especially in the more maze-like areas, party members would often go striding off the way they had come, so it was necessary to move them individually sometimes.